Ending the Pity Party

In April of last year I learned about a school in the area that wanted someone to minister as a chaplain to students.  This paid position involved counseling children who were in need and helping out in a number of other areas within the school.  Since it was less than ten minutes from my house I felt it must be God’s Will for me to begin ministering there, but the day after being interviewed a letter was received stating my application had not been accepted.

I can still remember the feeling of shock while reading that letter standing beside my mailbox.  There was no doubt in my mind that this ministry was the Lord’s Will for my life, how could He close the door?  If it wasn’t God’s Will then why let me go through all the application process?  Why wasn’t I accepted after meeting all of their requirements?  Standing there a feeling of frustration and self-pity began to well up in me along with the urge to have a pity-party.

We all have different responses to failure…mine is having a massive “pity-party.”  For those who don’t know, pity-parties are where someone expresses frustration, sadness, or other emotion in a way that draws attention to them.  Then when someone asks what’s wrong they say “nothing” with enough emotion to kill a person and sad eyes that would make Bambi say “okay fella that’s overdoing it.”  When the person asks again they have fallen into the trap because pity parties are really just about using others to make you feel better about failure.

I am the all time undisputed king of pity-parties.  My response to failure always began with the crowd favorite “I quit!”, followed by timeless classics like “I am so ______ (stupid, fat, ugly, lazy)” or “I am worthless.”  This was always accompanied by massive quantities of comfort food such as jellybeans or French fries, along with an inhuman amount of television.

Pity-parties became a huge part of my life because the encouragement of others, attention from friends, and comfort of eating while watching television took away the pain of that failure.  But over time they had to become bigger and bigger in order to take away the pain…now I was having pity-bashes complete with pity-hats, pity-cake, and a pity-piñata; but the pain of failure refused to go away.

It took me a while to realize that the pain of failure is a tool that God uses to help us grow spiritually and rely on Him more.  My self-pity masked the pain for a short time but all the jellybeans and television in the world couldn’t take away the feelings of remorse and regret…only God could do that.  So instead of trying to escape the pain a healthy response is to simply bring that pain to God and find how He is using it in your life.

A big part of me wanted to indulge in the extra-large bag of jelly beans that where calling me on that cold day standing by the mailbox.  But I also knew that this was a part of God’s Will for my life and escaping it through comfort wouldn’t allow me to learn from the experience.  Today I am planning to take counseling classes during my furlough and gain a permanent residency visa, which will almost guarantee my next application for chaplaincy, will be accepted.  That wouldn’t happen if I hadn’t allowed God to use the pain of that moment in my life.

I know its fun having a pity-party and indulging in low self-esteem while people constantly point out how awesome you are.  But the comfort of that moment won’t help you grow, it creates a cycle of pity-parties that just keep getting bigger and bigger.  So go ahead and turn out the lights guys….the parties over.

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John Wilburn

Church planter, teacher, and disciple-maker in Barrouallie St. Vincent

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